The Hob & Rack Bakery is starting off on a shoestring budget, but that's not a problem because it puts me in good company with the likes of Sir Alan Sugar and many more successful entrepreneurs who built formidable empires.

This week is the acid test: I've got my very first customer! We'll call him customer 'A'. Now, customer 'A' has faith because he's never had a Hob & Rack cake sample before. I think it's more that he has faith in me since we have worked together before, and he knows that I give my utmost to whatever I do. Yes, customer 'A' is actually my former boss; and no, we weren't previously in the bakery business.

Lesson 1
Everything you do in the past has the potential to come back and influence your future, whether for the positive or the negative; so always do the best you can, whether in business for yourself  or for someone else.

I'm going to be frank with you. . .not everyone is going to like Hob & Rack's healthy, and yes, dare I say, delicious cakes. In the same way that some people just hate green juices no matter how much green juice enthusiasts sing their praises, some people just won't have the palate for the nutty flavour of pure wholewheat flour. Even I was a bit taken aback when I tasted a sample batch that I baked up recently with 100% stone ground wholewheat flour. Still, my reaction wasn't like this: (click to see what happens when the taste just isn't right! It's a clip from the UK Apprentice, series 8.) My eureka moment came the following afternoon when the cake flavours had been allowed to meld and the natural, fruity sweetness simply kissed my tastebuds. I devoured the rest of the batch and came away with the knowledge that Hob & Rack cakes are like fine wine-though they contain no wine or other spirits-they mellow with age.

The general consensus garnered from feedback from previous sample tasting among family and potential customers is that out there, there's a group of people who simply love Hob & Rack cakes; there's a group who don't mind the taste per se but who are not so keen on the nutty flavour or the more dense characteristic texture that often accompanies egg-free cakes. And there just may be a special group among older customers, those who are not particularly touting the eat healthy message, but who come clamouring for more with the insistence that it's way too nice for just one slice.

Lesson 2
No matter what your product is , it's not for everyone, so find your niche, go with the market research, and be confident in your promotions.

A lot of people, but I'm speaking about Jamaicans in particular, still use aluminum cookware-they'll swear by the brown stew chicken in the dutch pot-so they might not care too much that the Hob & Rack Bakery uses aluminum-free baking powder in its cakes. A lot of people, worldwide, still prefer the tastes and textures of bleached and refined rice, flour and sugar, so they might not care too much that the Hob & Rack Bakery uses premium quality wholewheat flour. They might not place too much store on the fact that the dates and raisins used are preservative-free. They might not even stop to consider that the spices used are all natural. And if I tell people that the Hob & Rack Bakery uses sea salt in its cakes instead of ordinary salt, they might think so what? Salt is salt.

All these product features are excellent, but what do they mean to the person who chooses to purchase and consume a Hob & Rack cake? For the consumer battling with diabetes, it could mean less dramatic changes in their blood sugar; for the consumer struggling with high cholesterol, it could mean less unhealthy fats to compound the problem; for the consumer trying to lose weight, it could mean less pounds piled on as often happens with the over consumption of refined and artificial sugars and refined carbohydrates; for the consumer wanting a healthy pre or post workout snack, it could mean a tasty way to fuel and replenish energy; for the consumer wanting to reduce junk food snacks in their children's lunch boxes, it could mean the ideal snack time treat.

Lesson 3
Tell your customers how your product solves a problem, or meets a need they have. Customers are less interested in the technical specifications of products and more interested in how those specifications serve their most pressing needs. Give them the real reason to purchase.

So, with all that said, my attention now turns to preparing customer 'A's' cake in time to give it a chance to mellow by Thursday's delivery date; to really wow him with some of my best efforts yet; to see which side of the taste divide he'll come out on; and hopefully, he'll turn out to be my number one customer in more ways than one if he sees the health benefits of choosing cakes from the healthy options bakery. We really do aim to deliver rather appetizing cakes with a kick!
 


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